In the Fox News and Glenn Beck breakup, it was not crystal clear who the dumper and dumpee were. In most breakups where the couple shares a social circle, neither party wants a reputation as the dumpee. Beck says he's the one who wanted to leave — because the network was
so depressing so amazing.* "I remember feeling, 'If you do not leave now, you won’t leave with your soul intact,'" Beck said Friday, according to Forbes' Jeff Bercovici. Roger Ailes tried to talk him out of it. "Roger said to me, 'You're not going to leave.' And I said, 'I am.' And he said, 'Nobody does,' meaning leave television." But Beck sure showed him.
In classic breakups, injured parties declare they never even liked their ex- that much to begin with. But Beck said on Friday he felt he had to leave before he got stuck. "I said, 'I’m fortunate because I haven’t been in it that long.' I knew what this big, huge Fox empire brought to the table, and I had to leave before I became too enamored of that." The appeals of staying were immediate when he moved to Fox from CNN, where his office looked out over the open area where lesser news drones toiled away at their desks. "I used to call it the Pit of Despair," Beck said, "because there are all these people plunking out stories like, 'I just want to hang myself, I just want to hang myself.' The radio host was accepting a Disruptive Innovation Award from the Tribeca Film Festival.
In May 2011, New York's Gabriel Sherman reported that two months earlier, Ailes was trying to figure out "how to stage-manage Beck's departure from Fox," given that talks were "simultaneously a negotiation and a therapy session." Beck had said he didn't want to do cable news. Ailes wanted him to give up his show, but do six specials. Glenn's advisers wanted him to do four. "I’m just going to fire him and issue a press release," Ailes grumbled to a Fox executive.
Ailes himself appears to have tried to influence the official history of the Beck-Fox breakup. In September 2011, The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz reported that Ailes had intentionally led a "course correction" that moderated Fox's tone. Beck, Ailes said, "became a bit of a branding issue for us."
*Correction: Because of an error in the Forbes report on Beck's speech, this story originally misidentified which cable news network newsroom he described as a "Pit of Despair" in his speech. It was CNN not Fox News.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.